How to activate your network after getting laid off

Layoffs suck. There's no way around that.

I've been through layoffs on both sides - as a survivor and a victim - and there is no way to make them not suck.

And right now, there's a lot of that suckage going on. If you've been through a layoff, and you're financially able, I definitely recommend taking a few weeks or even months to process before you start looking for a new job.

Grieve. Relax. Get bored. Whatever you need.

But when you're ready to look, then comes the question: How do I find my next job?

It's common advice to "use your network" to find a new job, but what exactly does that mean?

I've been in this situation a number of times in my career, and been able to use my network to find jobs and other business opportunities for myself and laid off coworkers.

I'm able to do this not because I'm particularly extroverted or good at networking, but because I've developed a framework and set of tactics for how I go about it.

The three steps to activate your network

There are three key pieces that I use to activate my network for opportunities:

  1. An announcement

  2. Individual outreach

  3. Exploratory conversations

For each of these, the clearer you are on what you are looking for and what you are good at, the easier of a time you'll have. I'll lay out the templates I use for these below to make it easy to do this outreach, but throughout the goal is to be clear and ask for help without being needy. It is valuable for people looking to hire to find the right person just as it is valuable for you to find the right job, and with each step you are asking for help to try to find the right match, not asking anyone to give you a job.

The announcement

This is where you let your network broadly know what is going on and that you are open for new opportunities. This may be a post on LinkedIn, on Facebook, your blog... wherever you are connected to folks.

The goal of this is to provide a bit of a rallying point for people who are already energized to help out (sometimes folks will jump straight into connecting you with folks), and to start to get your face in people's thinking again as someone who might be looking for a job.

DON'T expect this to generate much in the way of leads right away, though it may. This is mostly about "priming" your network.

Announcement template

Hey all,
Unfortunately I too have been impacted by the layoffs sweeping through the industry. My last day was [xyz] and I'm now back on the market looking for a new job.

As frustrated and sad as this makes me, I'm also excited to find some new opportunities and meet new people. I'm looking for opportunities as a [Job Title], and I've found that I particularly thrive in [XYZ environments]. 

If you know anyone hiring in these domains, please point me their way!

The outreach

The announcement is good, but it's where most people stop, and is only just barely scratching the surface of what you can do with your network.

Because the reality is, most people scan past posts. Or if they don't, they maybe spend a minute or two thinking about what is top of mind, but they don't think deeply about you as an individual or what might be a good fit for you.

The next step is key - individual outreach to a wide range of friends and former coworkers.

The method is simple:

  1. Go through your social media lists for folks you have worked with before or who are in companies/fields where you would like to be working.

  2. Collect a list of all of these folks.

  3. One by one, send them an outreach message via your best guess of the way to contact them.

If you have personal email addresses for them, those can be effective. Barring that, LinkedIn messages have been my next best option, though I've used twitter DMs, facebook messenger, and text messages before all with good effect.

Outreach template

Hi [Name]!
Long time no chat! I hope you are doing well.

I'm currently in a career transition and taking my somewhat reduced workload as a great excuse/opportunity to reconnect with folks. Could I interest you in a short call to reconnect/catch up?

-[Your Name]

These are short, to the point, and not asking for anything. If you get a positive response (I've gotten anywhere from 10% to 70% response rates depending on medium and strength of connection), schedule a short (30 minutes) call. I use calendly to make scheduling easy, but you can also do this manually.

If the connection is local, you can also invite them to coffee or lunch rather than a call.

Don't stress out too much if folks don't respond. Most folks are super busy and bombarded by email - even they intend to respond, it may get slotted behind other urgent things and then forgotten.

If I have a good relationship with an individual, I'll usually send a super quick followup if I haven't heard from them in a week or so. Just a "hey, wanted to follow up really quickly - would love to catch up with you, any chance we could schedule something?" But don't worry about it, even if this doesn't work. It is not a rejection of you as a person, more likely something situational.

Exploratory conversations

These are the conversations you set up with folks. The point of these conversations is not to directly get a job opportunity, but to discover what is out there and become top of mind for folks as they are going through their lives.

Exploratory Conversation template

Hey, how's it going? Long time no talk... what have you been up to?

[Depending on the relationship, anywhere from the first 5 min to 90% of the conversation might be social catchup. That's okay!]

I'd love your advice - I got laid off, I'm looking for a new job doing [XYZ]. I'm particularly interested in [Any sorts of details about the types of company or environment you're looking for]. Do you know anyone currently hiring for this type of role?
    [If yes] Amazing, would you be willing to do an email introduction to them?
    [If no] No worries - is there anyone else you think I should talk to?
      [If so] That's great, would you be willing to make an email introduction?
    Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
Thank you so much for your help, is there anything that I can help *you* with right now?

The introductions outward are a key piece - while it is entirely possible someone you speak with will be working directly somewhere that has a good opportunity, it is far more likely they'll know of someone who is hiring, and a warm introduction (an introduction from someone the person already knows and trusts) is far more powerful than cold outreach.

When you get a "bite" -> Someone who is at a company hiring for a role that is relevant for you, the important thing to do is ask them if they can refer you in.

For most people at most companies, this is not a huge ask - except at some small companies, making a referral does not carry any reputational risk for the person doing the referral. However, what it will do is typically jump your name through the first layer of resume screens, which can be the difference between getting an interview and never hearing back from a company.

Keep Going!

It can take a while to find a good opportunity, especially in a down market, but the key is to keep putting yourself out there, and these conversations will do that.

As an introvert, I find these conversations fun but emotionally taxing, so I give myself both a minimum and maximum pace. I try to schedule at least 3 a week, but no more than 3 a day for while I'm job hunting.

The lower number keeps me accountable and moving forward, while the cap keeps me sane.

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